It was a turbulent time for Queen when the four musicians began work on their 13th studio album almost exactly 35 years ago. On August 9, 1986, the band played a gigantic concert in Knebworth in front of 120,000 people at the end of their "Magic Tour", which was to remain their last.
A little later, singer Freddie Mercury was diagnosed with HIV infection. After a band hiatus, Queen reunited in December 1987 to record The Miracle, which was released in May 1989. 33 years later, the album is now being reissued with previously unreleased tracks and a lot of material from the band's own archive.
What "The Miracle" is all about
With evergreens like "I Want It All", "The Invisible Man", "Breakthru" and the title track, "The Miracle", which was recorded in London and Montreux, is one of Queen's strongest albums. In Great Britain, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, among others, Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor topped the charts.
As usual with Queen, "The Miracle" is no ordinary rock album, but an eclectic mix of powerful rock, high-class pop with melodies that you can't get out of your head and many ingenious details. Latin-American rhythms ring out in "Rain Must Fall". "Was It All Worth It" creates great cinema for the ears - a rock epic with a film atmosphere. "Scandal" is guitarist May's criticism of the British tabloid press, which had speculated about Mercury's health and exploited May's marriage-off in the media.
How the band members worked together
According to May, there was a constructive cooperation in the studio. The band had previously decided that, for the first time, all members would be credited as songwriters for each song, regardless of who came up with the idea. "A really important decision for us. We left our egos in front of the studio door," May recalls today. "And we worked together as a real band, which wasn't always the case. I wish we had done that 15 years earlier."
Mercury's devastating diagnosis further welded the band together. "We were also struggling with Freddie's declining health and together we did everything we could to support him," May said. Since Mercury was no longer able to tour, Queen invested all energy in the studio in the production of the new album.
The unreleased songs
The quartet recorded over 30 songs back then. Some ended up on the follow-up albums "Innuendo" and "Made In Heaven", others disappeared into the archive. Until now. The extensive "Collector's Edition" of "The Miracle" is a box set with a total of five CDs. On the first is the original album. The second is called "The Miracle Sessions" and is a collection of interesting demos of well-known songs - some with studio talks - and six previously unreleased songs.
"Face It Alone" is a dark ballad in which Mercury presumably deals with the dramatic HIV diagnosis. "You feel your soul is burning alive," he sings. "When Love Breaks Up" is a piano ballad that was partly processed into "Breakthru" on the finished album, which can also be heard here in its original form. The "Collector's Edition" is a real treasure chest for Queen fans.
"I Guess We're Falling Out" is another song that Queen could just throw away at the time, while other artists would be glad to have written just one song of this caliber. Mercury and drummer Roger Taylor take turns singing on "Dog With A Bone". Brian May takes on lead vocals on "You Know You Belong To Me" and the atmospheric "Water". It's absolutely no fault that the songs can't quite keep up with the ten tracks that ended up on the album.
What the "Collector's Edition" offers
According to Queen, the third CD, "Alternative Miracle", with B-sides, extended tracks, live recordings and single versions, was supposed to be released as a follow-up to "The Miracle", which never happened. There are some real gems in there with "Stealin'" and the Taylor sung "Hijack My Heart". The latter would probably have sounded even better with Mercury's voice.
The fourth and fifth CD of the box contains the instrumental tracks as well as interviews with all four band members from back then. The box set also includes the original album on vinyl LP as well as a Blu-Ray and a DVD with the music videos for "I Want It All", "Breakthru", "The Invisible Man", "Scandal" and "The Miracle", with interviews and with making-of features - and a hardcover book.
price and alternative
Lavish reissues of popular classic albums are still a lucrative business for bands and music publishers in an age when physical media sales are dwindling. The fans often have to dig deep into their pockets for this. The box set "The Miracle - Collector's Edition" should cost around 160 euros. Despite the strong content and beautiful presentation, this is a steep price.
If that's too much money for you, you can fall back on the much slimmer "Deluxe Edition", which is available for around 20 euros. It consists of the remastered original album and a second CD with 16 tracks, which at least contains a small selection of what can be discovered in the big box. Probably not a real alternative for die-hard fans and anyone who thinks: "I want it all."